Rio de Janeiro - Some of the biggest names in Brazil's sport and entertainment worlds have signed an open letter calling on the president of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) to resign and for authorities to investigate corruption inside the national game.
“We demand the definitive resignation of Marco Polo Del Nero and his directors, followed by free and democratic elections for leadership of the CBF,” said the letter, signed by 127 people and published by Juca Kfouri, a journalist and one of the signatories.
Del Nero was charged by US prosecutors on December 3 with participating in schemes to solicit and receive millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks to sell media and marketing rights for soccer tournaments and matches.
His predecessor, Jose Maria Marin, is in jail awaiting trial on similar charges in an investigation by prosecutors in the United States and Switzerland into corruption in world soccer's governing body, Fifa, that has led to 41 indictments so far.
Ricardo Teixeira, president of the CBF from 1989 to 2012 and a former Fifa executive committee member, was also charged.
The letter, which was also read out at a protest in front of the CBF headquarters in Rio de Janeiro, was signed by soccer greats Pele, Zico and Tostao. It said meaningful elections were impossible under the current CBF statutes it called “illegal and immoral.”
“The most important thing today is to break the system, start again from scratch, and rethink a system that represents one of the most important expressions of Brazilian culture,” said Rai, a World Cup winner in 1994.
The CBF's secretary-general said they would listen to the demonstrators but stressed that Del Nero was innocent until proven guilty.
“Neither the FBI nor Fifa have offered any elements to prove that president Marco Polo is linked to Fifa corruption,” Walter Feldman told reporters.
He said Del Nero would speak in front of a congressional inquiry into football corruption on Wednesday afternoon and answer questions.
The signatories, which included singer-songwriter Chico Buarque, actor Wagner Moura, and Walter Salles, director of hit movies Central Station and The Motorcycle Diaries, called for a investigation into corruption inside Brazilian football.
Also on Tuesday, Fifa Vice President Juan Angel Napout, a Paraguayan who presides over the South American Football Confederation, CONMEBOL, was extradited to the United States to face corruption charges, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice said.
CONMEBOL elections to replace officials caught up in the probe were expected to take place in January.